Tips for making the transition to a new computer less painful

Computer upgrade
Computer upgrade

I just finished with the enviable task of upgrading to a new computer. Over my lifetime, I have lost count on the number of times I have upgraded my computer and had to move files and reinstall software. This was the easiest upgrade I ever had and I believe it was in large part to my preparation. I would like to share my lessons learned.

When upgrading a computer, you need to be concerned about not only your files but also your programs and settings. Here are the steps I took:

1. Track which programs you are using. The programs I use are important to me, they help me achieve my goals. However, there are some that I use infrequently and I might not be able to produce a list of them from memory. Instead I printed a list of loaded programs so I can track them down later. To do that, I used a small  batch file to dump file and directory lists to a text file.

2. Ensure you have all necessary software installation keys. Before starting the process of shutting down one computer and starting a new computer, I ensured that I had software keys for commercial software applications. I store my keys in an encrypted file on Evernote. Evernote is one of the first programs I load when I start installing software.

3. Move files to an external drive. While there are programs that will allow you to move files and settings from one computer to another, I have personally had mixed experiences, and personally shy away from them. I may do it the hard way, but still successfully. If you were not practicing good file management, this is the time to cull all your files into logical folders. I then move all my folders and files  onto my Dropbox and off of my computer. I pay for the subscription, but it has been worth it to me. When I set up my new computer, Dropbox is the second program I install.

4. Track which mapped drives you have. Right now, I have 15 mapped drives. To ensure I was not forgetting anything,  I printed out a list of my mapped drives. You can do this by going to the command prompt and running “net use > mapped_drives.txt” It creates a useful list of your mapped drives. One less thing to forget.

5. Export address books and bookmarks. As a minimum, you should save a back up of your address books and bookmarks from your e-mail client and Web browsers. I am not so concerned about my bookmarks because I use Diigo for all my links; however, I do have some quick access links I use. It is nice to have access to them immediately.  I also have email messages saved in local pst files that I burned to CD.

6. Back up your fonts. This last suggestion was recommended by my boss who is a graphic designer. She suggested that you back up your fonts as well as print out a list of them.

After taking time to carry out this preparation, getting back in service was quite painless. Once I had my new computer up and running, I immediately installed and configured Google Chrome, Dropbox, Evernote, and Skype. I then set up my Outlook account. After the initial set up, I began loading my software applications. Here is what is important to me:

  • Google Desktop
  • Adobe Reader
  • Audacity
  • Flash
  • Adobe Air
  • Filezilla
  • Lame for Audacity
  • Firefox
  • Notepad++
  • Mihov Image Resizer
  • PDF Creator
  • Tweetdeck
  • Ventrillo
  • Second Life
  • Zenu
  • Zotero
  • Winmerge
  • Accuradio
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking
  • Google Earth
  • Camtasia Studio 8 [Download]
  • Gimp 2
  • PDF Split and Merge
  • Adobe Captivate
Once all of the software was loaded, I spent a little time configuring security, audio, and printer settings. The easiest upgrade I ever had. What do you do to prepare for your computer upgrades?

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